South Africa is a vast country with many attractions, including a long list of must-visit national parks. Here we round up 10 of the best to make your decision a bit easier. So read on to ensure you experience all that nature has to offer when visiting this remarkable country.
Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape
Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is the third largest in South Africa and is famous for being home to more than 350 elephants. The park was established in 1931 to protect the eleven remaining elephants in the region – a negative result of hunting and an increase in farming activity. The park protects a diverse habitat rich with fauna and flora, including Cape buffalo, black rhino, the rare flightless dung beetle and many species of birds. There are also many archaeological sites to be visited, including artefacts of the nomadic “Strandloper” people, found on the Alexandria dunefields. When not relaxing in the rest camp, visitors can have a picnic, book a guided walk or trek one of the hiking or 4×4 trails.
Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape
Camdeboo National Park, Eastern Cape
The Camdeboo National Park is a birder’s paradise as approximately 250 bird species have been recorded in the park, so remember the binoculars. There are also many options for unleashing the adventure traveller in you – from 4×4 trails and walking routes to water sports in The Nqweba Dam. The Karoo park is situated in an area abundant with must-see sites, including the Valley of Desolation and the historic town of Graaff-Reinet.
Garden Route National Park, Eastern & Western Cape
The massive Garden Route National Park stretches from Tsitsikamma to Knysna to Wilderness across one of the most beautiful parts of the country. From forest excursions and mountain biking to birding, water activities and of course, the Otter Trail – one of the most popular hiking trails in South Africa – there’s so much to do visitors really are spoiled for choice. Whether you’re camping or staying in a self-catering chalet, the park has accommodation options to suit every traveller’s needs. When booking ensure you’re certain of which part of the park you will be visiting, if not all, as each is situated quite a distance from the others.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park boasts rolling hills and expansive views across open plains, with the Drakensberg visible in the distance. The sandstone cliffs found in the park are illuminated in a golden hue when the sunlight catches them, hence the park’s name. Khoisan rock paintings are found in caves scattered throughout the park and visitors can hike to these relevant spots. But, if you only do one hike while here let it be the Brandwag Buttress. The short route is only 2.4 kilometers (1.49 mi) both ways and shouldn’t take more than one hour to complete, there’s one small climb to reach the top and then the breathtaking view.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
The arid, desert landscape of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park seems unassuming at first glance. That is until a black-maned lion walks through the unfenced camp, or a leopard and her cubs lie down in the shadow of your game-viewing vehicle. The red sand dunes so characteristic of the Kgalagadi create a back drop against which majestic gemsbok (Oryx) are spotted. Quiet evenings are spent stargazing and listening to the sounds of the wild animals.
The Kruger National Park, Limpopo & Mpumalanga
The Kruger National Park covers nearly two million hectares of land and is one of the must-visit destinations in South Africa. It’s important to note that the massive park contains different environments, each with a unique accumulation of fauna and flora. Planning your trip is essential, as it’s impossible to cover large distances, a general map will give you enough information to make an informed decision of where to stay and which animals you could possibly spot. The park is home to the Big Five and it’s not usual to spot all in one day, so keep your eyes peeled, speak to other visitors and check the sighting boards at the rest camps.
Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo
Mapungubwe National Park is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa and has a rich history filled with tales of royalty. Thousands of years ago the park was home to an African Kingdom that flourished on trade with the East. The most famous discovery made here is that of the Golden Rhino, evidence of the population’s wealth. Besides a fascinating history the park also boasts amazing wildlife sighting opportunities and diverse birdlife, with over 400 recorded species.
Namaqua National Park, Northern Cape
Namaqua National Park comes alive in spring each year when the wild flowers begin to bloom, colouring the landscape in shades of yellow, purple and pink. More than 3,500 species of plants, of which more than 1,000 are endemic, dominate Namaqua National Park. For those visiting out of flower season there’s much to do; from hiking and visiting national monuments to camping and birding.
Table Mountain National Park, Western Cape
The Table Mountain National Park covers a large section of the Western Cape, from The Cape of Good Hope all the way through to Table Mountain. The park includes Boulders where visitors share the beach with a colony of African penguins and Table Mountain, a Cape Town icon, which is a must-visit. Whether taking the cable cart to the top or hiking all the way up, the experience is unforgettable, not to mention the view of the Mother City.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.